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Pew study proves very few white social media users post about race


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For Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris writes about a new Pew Research Center report that sheds light on how we speak about race online–or namely, who and from which race speaks about race online. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the report found that 60% of white people said that their social media updates never touch on race ever. Read Desmond-Harris in partial below, in full via Vox here.

There’s an ongoing conversation about race and racism on social media — but white people are missing most of it.

A Pew Research Center report released Monday asked Americans who identified as black, white, and Hispanic about how much they post about race, and how much content they see about it.

Pew studied “social media users” (those who answered “yes” to the question, “Do you ever use a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter?”) and found that, overall, only four in 10 people surveyed said “at least a few” of the posts they personally share are about race or “race relations.” Sixty percent said none of their social media postings ever touch the subject.

That seems unsurprising. After all, for many, race is a topic that is too sensitive and controversial to discuss publicly. Some people would rather not know what their online “friends” think. Others likely want to avoid a confrontation in the comments, and go silent on this topic as well as on things like politics and religion that could bring out clashing opinions.

But according to this new report, the degree of a user’s avoidance is itself related to his or her race.

Not everyone is choosing animal videos and vacation pictures over commentary about race and racism. Pew found that black social media users are more likely than white or Hispanic users to use social media to discuss race. Twenty-eight percent of black social media users say at least some of the things they share or post on social networking sites are about race or race relations. One in five Hispanic respondents say the same.

Meanwhile, only 8 percent of white social media users say that at least some of things they share or post are about race relations, with a large majority (67 percent) saying they don’t venture into this area.

And it looks like black social media users who opt out of sharing their own race-related posts are still much more likely to see this content in their feed than their white counterparts. “Even among black social media users who say they rarely or never discuss race relations or racial inequality, a majority (55 percent) state that most or some of the posts they see on social media pertain to race or race relations. That share drops to 23 percent for their white counterparts,” according to Pew.

That means many white users are missing out on the important debates, analysis, and awareness-raising content that Pew found, in another part of the study, is often responsive to breaking news about racial injustice and draws attention to concerns about things like diversity and representation. For example, the researchers found that six in 10 race-related tweets were tied to current events, and that Twitter’s most active days for discussing race were inspired by topics like a white supremacist’s attack on a Charleston church, deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police, and related demonstrations.